Green. As well as being a color, it’s a term for a highly nutritious leafy vegetable and a descriptor for an ecologically sustainable way of life. Quite fittingly, it’s also the name (in Spanish) of Verde, the cold-press juice bar that Kelly Egolf opened last fall.
When she came upon the empty space on San Mateo—in a Santa Fe neighborhood with 15 fitness facilities—Kelly knew she had found the perfect location for Verde. But that was just the beginning of the appeal. “One of the things that drew me to [the building] was the skylights,” she says. There was, however, “no duct work, no sinks. We had build everything out from four walls.”
Today, roughly a third of Verde’s 3,000 squarefoot space is taken up by the storefront, which is clean, sleek and minimal, with picture windows, bright white walls and fresh accents of (what else?) green. The remaining twothirds, in the back, houses rollup doors for produce delivery, two separate kitchens (one for washed produce and one for unwashed), ample storage areas for glass bottles, a space that will soon house a walk-in fridge and, of course, the juicer. Surprisingly diminutive, it is the smallest two-part cold press available for commercial purposes. Kelly and her staff have nicknamed it Bess the Cold Press, and they might eventually add a second one. Bess consists of a grinder on the top and a press on the bottom.
Kelly compares Bess to “an old cider press you’d see on a farm, where you crank the wheel to get juice from apples. It’s like that, only with stainless steel blades.” Roughly 25 pounds of raw, organic fruits and vegetables are shuttled into a very long tube, so there’s no chance that human digits will come even remotely close to contact with a blade. The produce is then given a very quick shred, and the resulting pieces of carrot, apple, celery, cucumber, pineapple and whatnot accumulate in a bag. Then 2,000 pounds of hydraulic pressure is applied; this squeezes the juice out.
Verde staffers run the press twice to extract the maximum amount of juice, and what’s left in the bag is fibrous and very dry plant-matter waste—nearly 11,000 pounds of it every month. “We pay a nonprofit to bring it to Payne’s [Nursery] for compost,” says Kelly. “It keeps it out of the landfill, and we’d rather return it to the earth.” Soon, she plans to allow people to come by and pick it up for use in their own gardens.
Not everything gets run through Bess. Whole-leaf greens, for example, don’t get juiced. If they did, they’d lose all their fiber. Instead, kale, spinach, parsley and mint are macerated in the Vitamix, a take-no-prisoners mega-blender. Spices and seeds also are given the Vitamix treatment once a week. They are first ground to a powder, then a little juice is added to create what Kelly calls a “smooth emulsification.”
Most cold-press juice bars serve straight-up juice only. Not Verde. Kelly combines the cold-press liquid with the blended greens, seeds and spices to create a different sort of drink altogether, a “hybrid between a juice and a green smoothie.” Only a handful of juice bars in the country serve this particular type of beverage, and Verde is one of the only ones that does so here in New Mexico. (Fresh cold-press juice in general is relatively new to the region, though Kelly cites two businesses that offer it, Rasa in Santa Fe and Squeezed in Albuquerque.)
It takes about five minutes to make two and a half gallons of juice. The process is a slow one, so Verde can’t press on demand. Instead Kelly schedules massive juicing sessions three times a week. In contrast to juicers that employ friction, the cold-press process involves no heat, and because cold-press juices have a shorter shelf life than those that are heat-processed, it’s best to drink them within three days of pressing. Each bottle of Verde juice is given a time stamp, so there’s no doubt as to its freshness.
Verde’s menu features about a dozen juice varieties that change with the seasons. Green Goddess combines pineapple, kale, spinach, carrot, parsley, wheatgrass and lemon with chia and pumpkin seeds. Boasting 11 grams of protein and 26 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber, it is, says Kelly, “probably our most popular” blend. (Verde’s menu lists calorie and protein counts for each drink.) Maple Lemon Aid is a tart and refreshing green tea-based blend that incorporates maple syrup “that comes from an organic farmer in Massachusetts.”
Kelly mentions that her kids “literally beg” for the juice known as Hydrating Sweetness, a recipe wherein apple juice balances out a veggie mixture that’s heavy on cucumber (with its high water content, cucumber is especially good for skin). “Raw apple juice is so completely different from pasteurized apple juice,” she notes. “If you’re buying a juice box for your kid, you’re buying juice that is months and months old.” Fresh cold-pressed apple juice, on the other hand, contains soluble fiber, enzymes and pectin.
Kelly is well versed in the nutritional properties of all Verde’s ingredients. “Celery [juice] is like a sports drink. When you feel like reaching for Gatorade, go for that instead. It helps you create an electrolyte balance,” she says. “Parsley is incredibly high in iron and a big source of vitamin C, which is a great anti-oxidant.”
Then there’s the sourcing of ingredients. “We’re committed to buying locally as much as we can,” says Kelly, explaining that the amount varies throughout the year from growing season to growing season. When buying local is not feasible, she weighs her options carefully and makes “smart choices,” such as getting her winter produce from Veritable Vegetables, a California distributor that works with farmers who employ sustainable practices.
As much as possible, she cuts out the middle man and buys direct. Verde’s turmeric root comes from a farmer in Hawaii; honey is from New Mexico producer Star G, in Mosquero; cayenne comes from Abiquiú’s Red Mountain Farm and tea is from Agapao in Santa Fe. In addition, says Kelly, “We literally grow our wheatgrass here in the store, supplemented by Sungreen Living Foods, a great local farmer who grows wheatgrass and micro sprouts.” (Verde also produces its own coconut milk and coconut water from scratch.)
One way Kelly makes it easy to drink your greens is by offering juice subscriptions. “We pack juice in little bitty coolers and deliver them to homes and offices three times a week,” she says, “like the old milkmen.” Verde is in the process of setting up an e-commerce capability on its website, so customers will be able to manage their subscriptions online. In the meantime, they can be set up via phone or email.
Kelly plans to introduce food in late spring, focusing, she says, “on mostly raw, convenient, grab-and-go” items. The menu, designed by Lizz Redman, will feature things like ready-to-eat salads, porridge, wraps that don’t involve bread and carrot-date nuggets. This summer, Lizz is rolling out a line of popsicles; pineapple-coconut milk and cacao nut milk-beet are just two of the flavors on offer. Verde will also likely be setting up a pop-up juice bar in Collected Works Bookstore in the near future.
At the foundation of Verde is a commitment to sustainability. “We invested in a special dishwasher that recycles steam,” says Kelly, touching on the company’s zero-waste business model. “We throw so little away. Everything goes to compost, including our compostable straws. Glass bottles are reused until the printing wears off, then recycled.” That ethos is also carried over into graphic design, printing and T-shirts, as well as equipment purchasing. Despite many of those goods and services being available online for less money, they’re all procured locally. And, importantly, Verde’s 15 employees, eight or nine of whom are fulltime, are paid a living wage. “For all this we pay extra,” says Kelly. “Values are important to us.”
Verde takes no shortcuts. It’s a business that lives up to the green in its name.
Story by Eve Tolpa
Verde Juice Company is located at 851 W. San Mateo in Santa Fe. 505.780.5151. verdejuice.com.
Also in New Mexico:
Rasa Juice Bar, 815 Early St., Santa Fe. 505.989.1288. rasajuice.com.
Squeezed Juice Bar, 7900 San Pedro NE and 3339 Central NE, Albuquerque. squeezedjuices.com.